Ex-President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez Faces Trial in the US for Running a ‘Narco State’

The trial of former President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez began on Tuesday in New York City in a rare criminal case against a former head of state.


The trial of former President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez began on Tuesday in New York City in a rare criminal case against a former head of state. Hernandez is accused of taking millions in bribes from the cartels to run Honduras as a “narco-state.” 

  • Prosecutors accused Hernandez of operating a double game, publicy pledging cooperation with the United States to tackle the drug trade while secretly raking in millions of dollars in bribes to funnel cocaine over the southern border.
  • Hernandez has been indicted on one charge of conspiracy to import cocaine and two charges of possessing a machine gun. “For years, he worked hand in hand with some of the most violent drug traffickers in Honduras to send ton after ton of cocaine to the US,” federal prosecutor David Robles told jurors in his opening statement.
  • Hernandez has been accused of running Honduras as a “narco-state” by partnering with drug traffickers, and allegedly been linked to drug traffickers since at least 2004, years before he took office in 2014.
  • Hernandez left office in 2022 and was arrested and extradited to the US shortly after.
  • In an ominous sign for Hernandez, two key co defendants pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges earlier this month.
  • Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, the former head of the National Police, and Mauricio Hernández Pineda, Hernandez’s cousin, may be brought to testify against Hernandez, who now stands trial alone.

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “Brick after brick of cocaine flowed for years into the United States from countries like Venezuela and Colombia, all of it funneled through the tiny Central American nation of Honduras,” wrote the New York Times. “Aircraft flown from clandestine dirt airstrips and smuggler vessels disguised as fishing trawlers found a safe haven there, U.S. officials said. And the ruthless gangs that operated them, the officials said, had a partner and protector in the country’s two-term president, Juan Orlando Hernández.”
  • “Hernández is the first former head of state to face drug-trafficking charges in the United States since another former US ally, the Panamanian strongman Gen Manuel Noriega, over 30 years ago,” the Guardian noted. “The trial will be arguably the biggest test yet of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s strategy to bring to account public officials who facilitate drug trafficking to the US.”
  • “Defense attorney Renato Stabile, though, said Hernández first ran as a congressman representing his rural home province in western Honduras because he wanted to rid his country of the scourge of the drug trade.” the Washington Post observed. “Stabile warned jurors to be wary of government witnesses, particularly several men who had killed dozens of individuals and are hoping their testimony will win them leniency at sentencing.”


  • “Prosecutors are expected to show the jury photos of Hernández posing with notorious drug dealers and an image of a machine gun inscribed with Hernández’s name and presidential title,” the Wall Street Journal reported
  • “The former Honduras leader even brazenly bragged during his tenure that he would ‘shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos,; the prosecutor said. His supposed drug-fighting efforts even earned him the praise of then-President Donald Trump,” the New York Post observed. “Hernández, 55, has been held at a Brooklyn federal lockup since his 2022 arrest and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison if convicted on drug and weapons smuggling charges”.
  • “If found guilty, he would follow in the footsteps of other former Latin American heads of state convicted in the United States, like Panama’s Manuel Noriega in 1992 and Guatemala’s Alfonso Portillo in 2014,: Breitbart contextualized. “Last year, Mexico’s former homeland security minister Genaro Garcia Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican official to face a US trial, was found guilty of drug trafficking by a New York court.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023